"Black has always been the base of my palette. It, the most intense, the most violent absence of colour, which gives an intensity to the colours with it, even to white, just as a tree makes the sky seem more blue... There is nothing sentimental about my taste for black; in China black is not the colour for mourning, white is. It is simply that I see black."
Peinture 146 x 97 cm, 3 juin 1957 is a particularly bold and successful example of Soulages' early painterly style. As with all of Soulages' post-1947 paintings, this work is non-representational and explores the process of painting and the means by which a composition comes into being.
For Soulages, his paintings are merely "a play of opacities and transparencies." "Painting", he has asserted, "is a constant doing without" and if his work expresses anything, he claims, it is about "time and its relationship to space" for through the medium and application of paint to the surface of the canvas, Soulages aims to "trap time within the painting's space."
In Peinture 146 x 97 cm, 3 juin 1957 bold geometric brushstrokes have been used to convey a sense of depth and volume. These strokes are interspersed with fine white lines that have been produced by scraping into the paint and revealing the white of the canvas beneath. In this way an elegant balance between light and dark is established that holds the composition into a fragile but stable unity. This sense of counterbalance is further enhanced by the contrast between the solid mass of the dark brushstrokes and the negation of this mass that has been created by the incised and seemingly luminescent white lines which dart like lightning through the space that Soulages' large and majestic brushstrokes define.
In creating this dramatic amalgamation of carefully composed sweeps of the brush in such a way that each clearly independent component of the work seems to depend on all of the others for its identity, Soulages has created a work in which the whole is somehow greater than the sum of its parts. The mysterious element that enables this to be true, is, Soulages believes, "Time," which, has been "trapped" in the painting by the addition of each brushstroke during the process of its creation until it becomes "immobilised in an amalgam of signs." At this point "Movement", he asserts, is "no longer depicted, but instead (becomes) tension, compressed motion, that is to say dynamism" (Cited in P. Daix and J. Johnson Sweeney, Pierre Soulages L'Oeuvre 1947-90, Neuchtel, 1991, p. 33).